Thursday, February 5, 2009

How many GHG emissions did you reduce today?

The earth's atmosphere is warming. And, anthropogenic sources of green house gases, predominantly CO2, contribute. It is important to consider how significant the impact of GHG emissions are on climate change. In "Global Warming", John Houghton suggests that based on a very simple radiation model, if the level of CO2 in the atmosphere was doubled suddenly, the earth's average temperature would rise by 1.2 degrees C. This is not insignificant. In fact many scientists around the world have suggested that catastrophic events will follow. Who, in their right mind, would allow CO2 emissions to continue?

However, maybe we should ask a different question: what are each of us willing to sacrifice in order to reduce emissions? Are we, as a society, willing to adapt to a warming climate in order to continue exploiting fossil fuels? A real adaption might be necessary - but maybe it's worth it? Move to southern Canada, plant some corn (Canada might be the new Iowa), and keep the tar sand oil flowing. While that might also be extreme, we do enjoy our carbon-intensive conveniences and might be better off to consider how much electricity, gasoline, or heat each of us are personally willing to sacrifice. Personally, I'm willing to sacrifice some - but I am glad that my lights are on right now and my computer is running, so I must accept some additional emissions. (Yeah, yeah - Nuclear, biofuels... they have some problems too)

It is also an interesting dynamic to see the developed countries who have prospered so greatly from unregulated emissions, now policing the developing countries (including China and India) regarding emissions. Whether his global warming beliefs are accurate, Vaclav Klaus may have a point: "[Poor nations] will not be able to absorb new technological standards required by the anti-greenhouse religion, their products will have difficulty accessing the developed markets, and as a result the gap between them and the developed world will widen." -

Obviously we should reduce CO2 emissions - but it will be a compromise, not an abolition.

1 comment:

TravisR said...

We can not just look at this as an issue of simple changes to the world that will not affect humanity. We have flourished in a narrow range of global climate. Changes in global climate may not be a simple adaptive change for those people living in any country, even those that are less developed. If we look back into prior periods of geologic time we can see eras when shallow seas covered much of the now dry land. That sort of change will not just be a simple matter of changing where crops are grown but will cause mass migrations of people. That may be an overly extreme example but even a few feet of change will displace people in low lying coastal zones and small islands, such as Kiribati.